PEI

Holland College launches safety app for students

Holland College has officially launched its new safety app for mobile devices to work with existing safety polices and procedures.

'It just gives that peace of mind'

Holland College officially launched the HC Safe app this week through both the Apple App Store and Google Play. (John Robertson/CBC)

Holland College has officially launched its new safety app for students to complement its current safety policies and procedures.

The free app offers access to counselling, snow day information and other features to keep students safe at both the Summerside and Charlottetown campuses.

One of the features on the application is called Friend Walk. It can track your location while walking or driving and can be shared with family or friends, so they know where you are at all times.

Either app user — the traveller or the observer — have the ability to contact emergency services if needed.

Holland College facilities director Justin Dunn was the lead engineer working on the app. (Ken Linton/CBC)

"So whether you are in Charlottetown or Summerside and you are walking back home and you are a little uneasy about that, you could use the Friend Walk ... you could actually have a loved-one track your movements in real time until you arrive safely at your destination and it just gives that peace of mind," said Justin Dunn, director of facilities and lead engineer for the HC Safe app.

It also has a working alone feature that requires the user to constantly check in to let others know that they are alright.

'Smart idea'

"I think it's a really smart idea," said first-year student Shea Prendergast​.

"I know I've been in situations before where I want to go home, but I have no one there so I don't feel safe enough to."

College officials say that apps like this are becoming more common in Canadian schools.

First-year students Shea Prendergast, left, and Christie Webb say that they think the new safety app is a good idea and that they will try it out. (Ken Linton/CBC)

There are benefits not just for students and staff but parents and family who live outside of P.E.I., who can also download the app to know what is going on at the college.

"A couple years ago we had a bomb scare here and we've got over 400 international students, so parents were calling us and wondering what was going on," said Sandy MacDonald, the president of Holland College. 

"With this app, they could download the app on their own phones no matter where they were and we could give them real-time responses to what's actually happening here at the school."

'More dynamic'

Students and staff will even be able to make appointments with counsellors or contact emergency services through the HC Safe application.

MacDonald says the new application will work with existing social and traditional media methods.

President of Holland College Sandy MacDonald says the app will allow the school more ways to reach students, staff and families during weather events and emergencies. (Ken Linton/CBC)

"[We] try to find out can we do things better, can we be more efficient, can we be better communicating with our staff and our students and our parents and so that really provides the impetus, the natural evolution of trying to support our students," MacDonald said.

"So we felt that we could do something a little more dynamic than simply providing information to them at one point in time."

The application's Friend Walk feature will allow those travelling to share their location with a family member or friend in real time. (Ken Linton/CBC)

The application is free on both the Apple App store and Google Play.

The app was made in partnership with a Canadian company called AppArmor.

MacDonald says that it will cost the college around $5,000 per year.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Isabella Zavarise

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